Al Rayyan’s sudden loss of form could make for an interesting case study. After winning the Qatar Stars League with five matches to spare, they have rather mysteriously gone off the boil, their defeat to Lekhwiya in the Qatar Cup semi-finals on Sunday compounding their misery.
A few weeks ago they could do nothing wrong. In fact, such was their domination in the Qatar Stars League that by the time it was at the halfway stage, rival teams had given up hope because the title was already out of their grasp.
But ever since lifting the Falcon Shield, they have gone winless in six matches, much to the disappointment of their coach Jorge Fossati and the frustration of their loyal fans. Captain Rodrigo Tabata had been in tremendous form up until the moment Al Rayyan won the title, but couldn’t work his magic after that, while players like Sebastian Soria, Victor Cacares and Sergio Garcia have also struggled.
On Sunday, Al Rayyan were given a masterclass by Lekhwiya in the first semi-final of the Qatar Cup. Lekhwiya, who were dethroned by Al Rayyan as the Qatar Stars League champions, had a score to settle and they did that emphatically, scoring three goals in the second half for a 3-1 victory.
The defeat also ruined Al Rayyan’s hopes of winning a treble, and the best they can do now hope for a dramatic change in fortunes in the Emir Cup, the most lucrative tournament in Qatar. Coach Fossati, who is considered a shrewd tactician, will no doubt be under a great deal of pressure from the Al Rayyan club management and will have to come up with a solid game plan ahead of their Emir Cup quarter-finals, for which they have directly qualified by virtue of being the Qatar Stars League champions.
“We will now focus on the Emir Cup and start training and preparing for these important games. Al Rayyan will now double their efforts to win this Cup, and give something back to the fans,” he said after the defeat on Sunday.
Lekhwiya, meanwhile, look good to retain their Qatar Cup title, with Belmadi saying his team succeeded because they were able to implement their gameplan.
“The aim wasn’t only overcoming Al Rayyan, but also to defend our title. We have achieved our first mission and now we prepare for the final game.”
With El Jaish beating Al Sadd 3-2 in the second semi-final yesterday, the stage is set for a title clash on Friday. Lekhwiya, meanwhile, will be feeling very confident with another crown within their grasp.
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